Study Shows – Accept Negative Emotions Instead of Ignoring It

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: Aug 14, 2017 | Last Updated: Mar 28, 2019

Embrace Negative Emotions

Although we would like to be happy and carefree all the time, life doesn’t work that way. Both positive and negative emotions are an inevitable part of life.

What matters is how you deal with these feelings. When negative emotions arise, we tend to ignore, suppress, and fight them.

In our mind, fighting against sadness or disappointment is the best way to feel better. The latest study disagrees! It turns out you’ve been dealing with your negative feelings wrong your entire life.

Accept the Negative Emotions

Brett Ford and a team of researchers at the University of Toronto carried out an interesting study about health benefits of accepting negative thoughts and emotions. To get their answers, Ford and his team organized three experiments.

The first experiment included 1003 participants who completed a survey wherein they were asked to rate how strongly they agreed with different statements.

“I tell myself I shouldn’t be feeling the way I’m feeling” is an example of statements that participants were asked to rate.

Findings revealed that participants who had a lower agreement with these statements exhibited higher levels of psychological well-being compared to their counterparts who tried fighting the negative feelings.

Here, lower agreement with provided statements indicates a greater acceptance of negative thoughts and emotions.

Negative Thoughts Info

What Did Two Remaining Experiments Find?

For the purpose of the second experiment[1], scientists included 156 participants who had to record a 3-minute speech as a part of a pretend job application.

They were told the recording would be presented to a panel of judges. All participants were told to mention their key strengths and skills and were given only 2 minutes to prepare for the speech. Later, they had to describe how they felt about this simple task.

Results showed that individuals who attempted to avoid negative feelings about the task were more prone to experiencing emotional distress than participants who opted to embrace their feelings.

The last, third, experiment included 222 participants who were asked to keep a journal for two weeks and record unpleasant experiences and describe how they felt due to those negative events.

Six months later, participants underwent a psychological evaluation.

Participants who reported they attempted to ignore or avoid negative emotions after bad experiences were more likely to have symptoms of some mood disorder like depression or anxiety.

On the other hand, people who embraced their negative feelings in response to bad situations had better psychological wellbeing.

Manage Stress with Acceptance

While some bad things or experiences are impossible to avoid, it is crucial how you deal with them according to the scientists whose research was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology[2].

The very first thing we want to do in response to bad events or experiences is to suppress negative emotions associated with them.

Scientists from Toronto show that is a wrong approach. In fact, avoiding or fighting negative emotions is detrimental to psychological well-being, which is why participants also experienced symptoms of mood disorders.

When stressful situations occur, the best strategy to cope is through acceptance, researchers explain. The way you approach negative experiences[3] and emotions means a lot for your overall well-being.

Instead of trying to change these emotions or judging them, acknowledge them. In turn, your stress levels will reduce.

Never ignore your emotions of any kind, address them! Scientists believe that when you embrace negative feelings you stop paying too much attention to them, and negativity decreases.


Scientists from the University of Toronto discovered that ignoring or fighting negative emotions can be harmful to psychological well-being.

On the other hand, embracing those feelings can provide stress relief and protect your psychological health.

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